As the former Head Chef of the world-renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Dan Giusti had reached the pinnacle of the restaurant industry. Now, the FreshStart 2019 Keynote Speaker sets his sights on different diners, with thousands of picky palates to satisfy.
With a desire to feed more people and the knowledge that chefs are uniquely suited to work within the limitations of the National School Lunch program, Chef Giusti began his company, Brigaid, to change the narrative surrounding good meals for kids at school. The startup strives to make more delicious meals for students and improve the dining experience by bringing trained chefs into the school cafeterias.
“We are working hard to change the perception of school food and also what it means to be a chef in a school,” said Chef Giusti. “We view the idea of running a food service operation in a school just the same as we would in a restaurant. From the sourcing of quality ingredients, to the thoughtful preparation and service of customer appropriate meals, there’s no reason that food purveyors and chefs alike should not be striving to elevate the standard of food offered in schools.”
Since 2016, Brigaid has operated in the six public schools of New London, Connecticut, serving scratch-made breakfasts, lunches, and suppers to almost 4,000 students every day. This year, Brigaid has also partnered with New York City Public Schools, the largest school district in the country, to begin service in six schools in Bronx, New York.
The school’s kitchen staff remains onboard, and the hired chefs manage the school kitchens, creating menus, ordering ingredients, and training and managing staff on the importance of healthy food for children. Brigaid introduces recipes with a variety of fresh ingredients, namely by swapping in fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, and removing frozen and processed foods.
Brigaid chefs work with their staff to learn new skills, develop relationships with students and community members and talk with students to improve the meals they serve. Through these actions they become fixtures in their schools and communities.
How do the schools manage the expenses of hiring Brigaid? According to Brigaid, with more delicious food and greater variety come higher student participation rates. By increasing the number of students eating school meals, school districts receive more federal and state reimbursement dollars that go directly back to their food service programs. Moreover, the transition to scratch-cooking has significantly lowered food costs while dramatically increasing the quality of the food.
Hear Chef Giusti speak about his inspiring work in schools as the keynote speaker of FreshStart 2019, January 15-17, 2019 at the La Quinta Resort & Club, La Quinta, CA. Following Giusti’s keynote during the Breakfast General Session on Wednesday January 16, attendees will hear about nationwide efforts to increase kids’ access to fresh produce from a school nutrition leader whose work is impacting children and families in his community, a non-profit partner who has benefitted from the foundation’s community grants program, and industry peers who are supporting the foundation’s mission through their business.
By: Andrew Marshall, Director, Foodservice & Foundation Partnerships, United Fresh Produce Association